A Colorful Question!

The 1900 theater, 2017.


And its “lost” neon sign.


Carved into stone above the main entrance of the building is 1900 AUDITORIUM. But the building, also known as the Opera House, was later converted into a movie house, and renamed the Uptown (in, it seems, the 1930s).

A neon sign was installed and for many decades its magically lighted presence beckoned moviegoers. Then, and nobody recalls when, the neon was damaged and the sign went dark.

About fifteen years ago the sign was removed and today it sits in storage.

However, wondrous plans are afoot!

Soon, the sign will be removed from storage so it can be repaired and painted. Then, it will be taken to Coffelt Signs in Emporia to have new neon tubes created! Once this work is completed, the newly restored sign will be returned to the 1900 Theater and will once again be a magically lighted presence in the night!

However, an unanswered question remains: What colors should the sign be? It was black and red. But was it always black and red? And what color gas was in the neon tubing?

What colors do you think it should be? Let us know!


Post by Ross, blogmaster.



  1. Jarrett L. on September 12, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Black and red seems quite spooky. Maybe a lighter color, I quite like the orange and blue of the logo at the top. What do you think?

    • Rick Fischer on April 13, 2019 at 7:43 pm

      I also like the orange and blue logo at the top of the page.

  2. Sandra Lee on September 13, 2017 at 6:04 am

    Neon best w extra colors & look at Art Deco examples & early movie house signs as Dave suggested 🙂

  3. Barb Sanford on September 13, 2017 at 7:18 am

    Looks like red and black are the junior/senior high school colors. Maybe that’s why it was red and black — it would already be a popular color scheme with the locals.

    Questions: What colors are used in the interior design? Do you want to tie the sign to them? Not in a “matchy-matchy” way, but more as a lure to enter and an introduction to what’s ahead?

  4. Jesse on September 13, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Always wondered about the history of that building… original colors for sure! Maybe white neon with the black and red sign, would match Bulldog colors.

    • Mike on September 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Strong City High School were not “Bulldogs”, they were the “Indians” and (if memory serves) their colors were black and gold.

  5. Mike on September 13, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Most of the old neon signs I have seen have had tubes that glowed the same color as the background painted letters; some exceptions were when the letters were white. Assuming that an accurate restoration is what you want, I’d go with the original paint colors, and red neon tubes.

  6. Ross on September 14, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Hi, Dave!

    We do not know what the original colors of the sign were.

    When the sign was taken down the colors were black and red. Maybe these were the original colors. Maybe not!

  7. Ross on September 14, 2017 at 12:53 am

    Hi again, Dave,

    As mentioned above, we have no confirmation as to the original colors of the sign. Just because it was red/black when it was taken down does not automatically mean it was red/black originally.

    There are no plans to add neon to the building.

    And we are several years from deciding about seats!

  8. Ross on September 14, 2017 at 12:56 am

    Yes, a new sidewalk and curb will likely be done at some point!

  9. Ross on September 27, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Hi, Dave!

    We have been talking with Coffelt Sign in Emporia.

  10. Rachel Creager Ireland on September 29, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Have you looked for deeper layers of paint under the black and red?

    Remembering how I had a friend who did carousel horse restoration. She would remove paint in layers, to see what the various incarnations looked like.

    But no doubt you’re familiar with this kind of approach.

    • Ross on September 30, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      Hi, Rachel!

      The sign was stripped of paint about a decade ago, and then given a primer coat.

      All we have to work with is one old photo showing it red and black, but there is no way to know if those were the original colors.

  11. Ross on September 30, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    No, one cannot paste images directly into a comment. I know of no blog where this is possible, although Disqus does allow this.

  12. Ross on September 30, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    We have been talking with Coffelt. The coloring of the sign will be determined by the Alliance board. We will perhaps go with what the sign was: Red neon on red letters and with a black background.

  13. Linda on October 4, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Ross, here you are, another blog. This building really looks interesting. I don’t know anything about this stuff but the idea of red, white and blue for the sign sound better to me than red and black.

  14. Ross on October 10, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Dave,

    While I understand that Luminous Neon is doing all this work free to you, it is not free to them. Somebody is spending time and energy to develop these many proposals.

    We have been working with Coffelt in Emporia and our plan at present is to proceed working with them.

    Also, the sign is circa-1940. The gold scrollwork which Luminous Neon suggested is not period correct for a 1940s sign. More 1890s!

    Our instinct is to recreate what the sign looked like when it was taken down, as seen in the image above.

  15. Ross on October 13, 2017 at 6:29 pm


    I wrote the following previously:

    While I understand that Luminous Neon is doing all this work free to you, it is not free to them. Somebody is spending time and energy to develop these many proposals.

    We have been working with Coffelt in Emporia and our plan at present is to proceed working with them.

    I am also baffled why you are doing all this. The Preservation Alliance has been duly working on getting the sign restored, and we hope that it will be reinstalled in 2018. This information has been mentioned repeatedly on this blog. We even have plans for a dramatic unveiling!

    In short, the restoration of the sign is moving ahead smoothly.

  16. Rachel Creager Ireland on October 15, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    A second estimate might not be a bad idea, but I’ll put in a word for Coffelt. I’ve known the family for about 35 years and have done business with them. They gave us a good sign for a good price and are also available to come to Chase County for maintenance if necessary. I have no reservations working with them.

    • Ross on October 15, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      Thank you, Rachel!

      Justin and I have been working with Coffelt and we are also highly impressed. Their estimate for restoring the sign was quite reasonable. We hope to have a formal estimate to present at the board meeting this week!

      See ya’ tomorrow!

  17. Ross on October 15, 2017 at 10:41 pm


    The Strong City Preservation Alliance is always thrilled when anybody is willing to volunteer and really jump into a project.

    But, it is vital that a volunteer work with the board rather than act as a free agent. You have been doing the latter, and have been spending time/effort on things we did not ask you to pursue, things which actually duplicate efforts already expended by board members, and/or are contrary to our plans.

    I cannot speak for the whole board of the Preservation Alliance so will simply offer my views as follows.

    I hope that my impression is incorrect, but your numerous suggestions convey criticism of the board. Why aren’t we doing X? Why haven’t we pursued Y? My response to this implied criticism is to feel protective on the board’s behalf as I know that the board embodies an enormous amount of talent and experience and dedication. The entire board is volunteering their effort.

    Again, I hope that my impressions are incorrect.

  18. Sandra Lee on October 16, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Love the blog & love the ideas everybody has! I am so excited about the Alliance & the 1900 theater restoration! This is so fun. Thanks Ross for being blogmaster. It sound like the Board is on target with upcoming plans!!!!! Yay Ross Restoration King!!!

  19. Rick Fischer on April 13, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    I can hardly wait for the Red on Black sign to go up.

    • Ross on April 13, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      Me, too!

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